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Michael Jackson Wrongful Death Trial Underway; Arias Defense Files for Mistrial; Texas Investigation Continues
Aired April 2, 2013 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": But a brand new trial is about to get underway, next hour, in fact, in Los Angeles. It is a civil wrongful death trial that hinges on just who exactly employed Dr. Conrad Murray.
Jackson's family says it was the promoters and producers of a big concert tour that was meant to be Jackson's triumphant comeback. The promoters and producers say wrong, it was Michael Jackson himself.
CNN's Miguel Marquez is on the case, filing this report.
MICHAEL JACKSON, DECEASED SINGER: This is it, and see you in July.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "This is it," meant to herald Michael Jackson's comeback.
Like so many things in Jackson's life and death, it's been a super- sized trial, reports the Jackson family seeking from AEG as much as $40 billion for the wrongful death of the 50-year-old King of Pop, reports that the Jackson camp denies.
KEVIN BOYLE, JACKSON FAMILY ATTORNEY: The jury feels the family deserves $40 billion, that's what they're going to get.
But I can tell you no demand has been made by the Jackson family for $40 billion from AEG. That is just not true.
MARQUEZ: At the center of the trial, who hired Dr. Conrad Murray, found guilty in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter for injecting the insomniac pop star with a lethal dose of the anesthetic Propofol?
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": What do you think, as his mother, caused his death?
KATHERINE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S MOTHER: I don't know. All I know is they used Propofol, and they shouldn't have used it.
MARQUEZ: The plaintiffs, Jackson's mother Katherine and his three kids, blame AEG.
Its lawyer says there was never a signed contract, and Murray, who was never paid anything, served only at the pleasure of Michael Jackson. MARVIN PUTNAM, AEG ATTORNEY: If you look at the draft, explicitly, is that he was chosen by Michael Jackson, he'd be there at Michael Jackson's behest. Michael Jackson was the only person who could get rid of him at will.
MARQUEZ: Possibly testifying, Jackson's 16-year-old son, Prince Michael, and 14-year-old daughter, Paris.
Also on the list but not expected to testify, the artist Prince, who has his own history with AEG.
Musician Quincy Jones could take the stand to testify how much Jackson could have earned if he had lived.
BANFIELD: And Miguel Marquez joins me now, live. Also we're joined by "In Session" correspondent Jean Casarez.
Miguel, I want to begin with you. So often these cases can be won or lost in jury selection which gets underway today.
So with that as the backdrop, who are we expecting to show up in court today, and what are we expecting to actually see?
MARQUEZ: Yeah, we're not expecting the Jackson family to show up, first off. The lawyers have started to come in already, and we're expecting a lot of jurors to come in to fill out paperwork to see who might be available in the county of Los Angeles to serve for the two or three months that this trial might take.
That is a very long time to be in trial, so they'll come in today, fill out paperwork, and then the lawyers will probably question them, probably not today, but sometime down the road.
BANFIELD: And I just want to get clear here, Jean Casarez, exactly what does there case hinge on?
JEAN CASAREZ, CORRESPONDENT, HLN'S "IN SESSION": Well, there are a number of allegations, negligence on the part of AEG, fraud, intentional and negligent emotional distress.
But it comes down to the family of Michael Jackson is alleging that AEG, which was responsible for this huge tour, actually was the one that employed and paid for Conrad Murray.
And because of that, they were the employer so they should be responsible for his actions, that civilly, they caused the death of Michael Jackson, that they knew or should have known or it should have been foreseeable that Conrad Murray, being so much in debt, was so in need of $150,000 a month that he would do anything so that Michael Jackson could take the stage.
There's a critical e-mail, Ashleigh, that the plaintiffs are definitely going to rely upon. which is from an AEG official to Kenny Ortega, and it was after Conrad Murray did not allow Michael Jackson to go to rehearsal 11 days before he died.
And the e-mail states, "You tell Mr. Conrad Murray that we, AEG, are the ones that pay him, not Michael Jackson ..."
BANFIELD: Do you know what? I have that e-mail.
CASAREZ: "... and he has responsibility, and he knows what that is."
BANFIELD: Let me read it verbatim, Jean.
"We want to remind Murray that it is AEG, not M.J., Michael Jackson, who is paying his salary. We want to remind him what is expected of him."
And, in fact, an e-mail from AEG's president on the very day that Jackson was announcing the tour was pretty specific. as well.
"M.J. is locked in his room, drunk and despondent. He is an emotionally paralyzed mess, riddled with self-loathing and doubt now that it is show time."
Miguel, with that, that sounds pretty pointed and pretty specific where evidence is concerned.
But there has to be the counterargument where AEG is concerned. What is it?
MARQUEZ: Well, AEG is going to come back with everything. They're going to come back with everything from the molestation trial in 2005. They're going to try and prove that Michael Jackson is a guy who was -- had a death wish, essentially, that this guy hired Dr. Conrad Murray himself, had a history of drug addiction and abuse, and that it was his own fault that he died.
BANFIELD: And, Jean, just the fact that we have a guilty verdict in the criminal trial already, you know, that's pretty powerful stuff going into a civil trial you would think.
Will it play in heavily?
CASAREZ: Sure it is. Sure. AEG is going to rely upon that. Of course you're talking about the involuntary manslaughter conviction of Conrad Murray.
They are going to say that breaks the link right there, so they have no civil responsibility at all for the death of Michael Jackson.
And they will blame Conrad Murray and also the personal responsibility of Michael Jackson, who they say will hire -- did hire Conrad Murray.
BANFIELD: All right. Jean Casarez and Miguel Marquez, thank you both for the insight as we get ready for those hearings to begin.
And, by the way, Dr. Conrad Murray is going to tell his side of the story in his first television interview live from jail. It's an "AC 360" exclusive, beginning tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.
Fascinating that he would do that just as the civil trial is to get under way. You're going to want to hear every word of it.
There's a good chance we may hear those words played back in court.
If you ever sit on a jury, remember this -- one major slipup could cost you and could cost you and could cost the taxpayers millions.
The defense in the Jodi Arias murder trial says that juror number five committed a major no-no. You just don't talk about the case, period.
And if it's true, it could impact her and could impact the entire process.
BANFIELD: Over a million dollars already spent on Jodi Arias' defense, not to mention 40 days since the trial began, and all of this could be for nothing because of one single juror.
The defense in this case has now filed a motion for a mistrial, saying that juror number five did something you just can't do as a juror, period. She allegedly talked about the case in front of her fellow jurors.
The court gets back under way in about an hour and a half. I want to get straight to CNN's Ted Rowlands and "In Session's" correspondents on the case, Jean Casarez and Beth Karas, who are outside the courthouse in Phoenix.
Jean, let me begin with you. Do we have any idea what she is alleged to have actually said in front of these jurors? Like if it's damaging or if it's reversible?
CASAREZ: We do not know because it is sealed, but we have to look at the motion that they filed, and I think we can read between the lines.
And it appears as though when the judge was questioning jurors on whether they had seen the prosecutor sign autographs, that another conversation evolved. And it appears as though maybe other jurors said that one of their fellow jurors had made some comments in front of them. That is what I read in this motion.
We don't know what it is, but they quote the U.S. Supreme Court saying that you cannot conduct -- any misconduct with a juror, any tampering with a juror will not be allowed. That leads us to believe it is conversations.
BANFIELD: So, Beth, I mean, is this -- is it a case of it doesn't matter what you say, just the fact that you say anything at all shuts down the whole process? Or is -- can this be repaired? Can we save this extraordinarily long ordeal that we've all engaged in up till now?
BETH KARAS, CORRESPONDENT, HLN'S "IN SESSION": It probably is a matter of what you say and how many of the jurors heard it. They've already done their fact-finding mission. That is the judge has already questioned all the jurors individually.
I think that there's just a matter of her deciding it now because they probably know everything they need to know about whether or not other jurors have been affected by whatever this comment is that number five made, one of the seven women on the jury.
I don't think there will be a mistrial. That is a drastic remedy.
If there is a remedy that is short of dismissing the entire panel and starting this case all over again, as you say, it's caused over -- well over a million dollars at this point, then the judge will do that.
And I think that the remedy, if necessary, will be to remove juror number five, provided anyone who heard whatever this comment was says they're not affected by it, they can put it aside, they make up their own minds, number five isn't going to tell them what to do.
So I think -- and because this is a death case, the judge -- judges -- not just this judge, but all judges take things a little -- a step further in protecting the rights of the defendant not to create an appellate issue.
I think there's a good chance she will be dismissed. She's a note- taker. She puts a lot of questions in that jury basket. She's a very active juror.
BANFIELD: Actually, well, you know what? Let me throw up some stats that we know on her.
Juror number five is a white female. She's in her 30s. She's married. I don't know that this is significant, but what we can tell about you since we know so little -- know about her is that she has her hair dyed in a very unique way, platinum blonde on top with red on the sides and the back. Maybe just shows that she's perhaps a little more avant-garde in her style.
But you know, in the end, we just don't know anything about jurors and for good reason.
Ted Rowlands, do we know anything about this process today? Are we going to get back on track quickly? Are they going to wrap this up quickly and deal with it, or have you sort of been put on standby indefinitely?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, I would assume that they're going to deal with this quickly, Ashleigh, because, quite frankly, they are behind schedule.
This jury was told when they were impaneled that they should be ready to serve basically through next week. This is going to go on a lot past next week when you consider deliberations.
So I think they'll deal with this quickly. As Beth said, they've already done the interviews. They know what they're dealing with here. I suspect they'll bounce juror number five, which is kind of a disappointment for the court-watchers because there's always that one juror that everybody watches. And she is it.
Because not only her hair, but she's the one taking notes. Obviously, this is a woman with personality that would have had an effect in the jury room during deliberations.
But this is a death penalty case. I don't think the judge will take any chances. I would assume that she would likely bounce this juror.
BANFIELD: Jean Casarez, final question, and I ask it with trepidation, and it has to do with sequestering the jury, keeping them away from media, keeping them away from public comments in a high- profile or a public case.
The reason I ask with trepidation is because we've had some experiences with this before. Let me just go with the O.J. Simpson trial. That thing was about nine months long, and the jury deliberated in total for -- it's considered under three hours in his case, nine months of testimony, less than three hours of talking about it.
And in Casey Anthony's case, that was another sequestered jury. Eleven hours worth of deliberations and that was more than six weeks of testimony and evidence that they had to boil down into just 11 hours. And in both cases, obviously those were very high-profile acquittals, so there is the question: Why wasn't this sequestered, Jean Casarez?
CASAREZ: Well, I don't know of any motion from either side requesting there to be a sequestration of the jury. The judge can bring it up; I know of the judge not bringing it up. It has not been an issue. We'll see if that changes once they start deliberations, but I've seen many cases where the sequestration order cab come into place at that point of time. But you're right, this is very high profile. This could be a concern. And maybe with Juror Five, maybe everything will be changed from here on out. We'll see.
BANFIELD: All right. Ted Rowlands, Beth Karas, Jean Casarez, thank you to all three of you.
In the meantime, a massive amount of Travis Alexander's blood was spilled after Jodi Arias admittedly killed him. Up next, a blood spatter expert is going to walk us through the crime scene. It's critical to get to the details here. He says Jodi's story does not add up to the science that he knows, and he has a very different story to tell. Stay with us.
BANFIELD: At the very outset, Jodi Arias said she had nothing to do with the murder of her boyfriend, and then came the second account. The second account was that intruders actually killed Travis Alexander. Then the third account was -- she came clean and said she did it, but she said she did it in self-defense. Still, there's something that doesn't sit right with some of the experts that we have spoken with, like crime scene investigator Joe Morgan. He takes HLN's Ryan Smith on a walk-through of the stabbing like you have perhaps never seen before.
JOE MORGAN, CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATOR: The thing that's so telling for me is there is one image that's taken off of that camera that's very telling. And that's with Travis turned in the shower, hands against the wall, and we see his pristine back. We know that there's no injuries in there. This is a completely defenseless position.
It's my thought that while he was in a position similar to this, that Jodi advanced on him and struck. She stabbed him nine times, nine times between the shoulder blades, which is very difficult to do because it's so highly concentrated. In addition to that, stabbed him twice in the neck, then twice in the top of the head.
RYAN SMITH, HLN ANCHOR: So what's he doing at this point?
MORGAN: At this point time he's probably beginning to slouch in the shower to go to the floor. Now, as she advances again, I think that she's still on top of him. She comes forward with a knife. He raises his hands because there are significant defensive injuries. He's grabbed hold of the blade several times. His hands are cut. And then finally, she stabs him right in the chest, and this entry goes right into the vena cava, which is, in fact, a lethal blow.
SMITH: But he's still alive?
MORGAN: He's still alive. It's going to take a while for him to bleed out from this.
SMITH: OK, so let's move over to the sink because your thought is he's then moving over to the sink. And tell me what happens then.
MORGAN: This high concentration of blood that we see here on the sink, most of this is very, very passive blood spatter. We have a grouping of blood here, but what's the most telling is this medium velocity blood spatter that we have right here that we refer to as aspirate. This is consistent with someone that's actually coughing up blood and spewing it onto a surface.
SMITH: So he's standing at this sink, he's maybe holding onto it -- coughing up the blood.
MORGAN: Coughing up the blood at this moment in time. Yes.
SMITH: OK, so then what happens?
MORGAN: At this moment in time, I believe that Jodi has retreated from this point. I believe that maybe she's moved on down the hall because we know that Travis makes his way down the hall somehow. Now, keep in mind, he's slowly bleeding out, but he is not dead yet. SMITH: So he is walking down the hall, let's go down here. And here we have -- let's assume this is Travis here. Tell us what happens next.
MORGAN: Right. Well, as you can see, Travis is laying in a large pool of blood. As a matter of fact, it's so thick that it saturated through to the carpet padding beneath. This blood does not come from the injury he sustained from the vena cava. It comes, actually, from the large gaping injury on the front side of his neck, or on the anterior aspect. This cut, this cut that has been inflicted upon him, actually goes so deep that it cuts both the right carotid and right jugular vein. And this causes him to bleed out in this large fashion like this.
SMITH: So put yourself in Jodi's position and tell us how you think this might have happened.
MORGAN: Well, obviously, Jodi is in a dominant position over this gentleman. She's either straddled him, maybe she's got her knee in his back. Keep in mind, she's a tiny woman. But what she is doing, she's going to have to leverage his body. The weight of his body is going to have to help with this deep cut that he has.
After she takes the knife, she place it around his neck and cuts upward like this, and steps back. Now all he's got left to do is to bleed out and die.
SMITH: So based on what you see of the blood, based on what you see of the scene, her story makes no sense.
MORGAN: Absolutely no sense whatsoever.
BANFIELD: That's just unbelievable -- I mean, honestly, that is unbelievable stuff. It's the stuff you see in primetime television nightly. Dramatized.
As a reminder, though, you can watch the real thing. The Jodi Arias trial is going to get back underway this afternoon on HLN. You can also watch it on CNN.com.
Shell casings all over the floor. That's what investigators found in the Texas home of a murdered prosecutor. But beyond that, they're really not saying much else. We're going to take a closer look at the case and the possible link to white supremacists next.
BANFIELD: Authorities in Kaufman County, Texas, are keeping things pretty close to their vest right now in this investigation into the killing of the county district attorney, Mike McLelland, and his wife. They were killed over the weekend, actually gunned down in their very own home. We have been hearing that there are a couple of theories. They may have been in bed when this happened; or., alternatively, they may have actually been running from the shooter or shooters involved. Last hour, a county administrator stepped up to the microphone to talk briefly, albeit, about this investigation and about the safety of the new interim district attorney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE BRUCE WOOD, KAUFMAN COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR: I'm optimistic that with the -- there are literally hundreds of people working on this case. And I'm -- I feel like that, you know, I don't know what time frame we're on, but I'm confident that they will find whoever committed this crime.
FEMALE REPORTER: Is there any concern about Ms. Fernandez's safety, given her involvement in the prosecution of other Aryan Brotherhood cases?
WOOD: Well, you know, that's something that really I don't want to get into. I can promise you that all of the people in this courthouse, all of the elected officials, all of the other people that are involved in this investigation, are being very well protected. I have no question about her safety.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: And you heard the reference to Ms. Fernandez. It's actually Brandi Fernandez, who was Mike McLelland's first assistant district attorney, who's going step in in an interim basis as DA while they try to sort this whole thing in that county.
In the meantime, a memorial service for Mike McLelland and his wife is scheduled for Thursday of this week while the funerals are set for Friday.
Investigators are looking into the possible involvement of a gang called the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. And like other well-known gangs, the Crips, the Bloods, the MS13s, they're known for brutality and violent crime.
Our Deb Feyerick has more on the Brotherhood, its roots, and its violent way of life.
DEB FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They call themselves the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, the ABT, considered one of the most dangerous gangs in the state with roots inside the walls of the Texas prison system.
MARK POTOK, SOUTHER POVERTY LAW CENTER: I think the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas today is arguably the most violent white supremacist gang out there.
FEYERICK: The ABT modeled itself after a California-based prison gang called the Aryan Brotherhood, who were the subject of this National Geographic documentary. NARRATOR: While most gangs seek safety in numbers, the Aryan Brotherhood remains an exclusive crew. Only the most cunning and ruthless convicts may enter the brand's privileged rank.
FEYERICK: Inmates in Texas asked the Aryan Brotherhood for permission to start a Texas chapter, but the Southern Poverty Law Center says they were denied membership. We don't know why, but it didn't seem to matter. Authorities say the ABT followed the California model.
POTOK: It is said to be one of the gangs that live by the "Blood In, Blood Out" code, meaning that you can only get into ABT by carrying out some kind of attack. And similarly, or so it's said, you can only leave in a body bag.
FEYERICK: And like the larger Aryan Brotherhood movement, authorities say the ABT's main purpose turned from protecting whites in prison to criminal activities like drugs, extortion, and murder. And its reach began to extend outside the prison walls as more members served out their sentences. ABT members on parole are required not only to remain loyal to the gang, but also to recruit new members.